Typography

I’ve been reading through my copies of Workskin (Norman & Gorganmilk) again and I’ve also got The Peridot (David McGrogan) kicking around my deks now because of it. I quite like the idea of throwing some ideas into a zine like this so that’s what I’ve been working on recently. (This something that I played around with before if anyone spotted my unlaunched Patreon and was actually what Merchants and Civilisations was originally for.)

Anyway, I keep finding hurdles to slow myself down with. I’m unsure why I’m that kind of person. One such hurdle was “I can’t even tell if this text should be justified or not.” I ended up Googling for it and found Butterick’s Practical Typography. It’s full of advice that I’m working through. I’d recommend it for anyone writing who isn’t likely to get an editor or layout person.

It talks a lot about typography not being about aesthetics. Instead, it’s more about being appropriate for your subject area and being in the right format to sink in as completely as possible whilst reading.

For completion: with regards to left aligned or justified, it suggests following personal preference. There’s apparently little evidence of one being better than the other. I’ll go with left aligned right now, because it leaves more space for notes, but I don’t have a strong preference.

I did wanna do the preface centred but was heavily berated by Butterick’s chapter on that.

A poem showing off when centred text can be used. The irony is that the poem is written centre-aligned despite the advice.
A poem from Butterick.

When writing is difficult

“Everyone has a novel inside of them, and that’s perhaps the best place for it to stay,” is a witticism that I find a bit disheartening. There are quite a few people out there and judging by the number of hours humans have spent watching Gangam Style alone they have plenty of time too. Surely, someone must appreciate your drivel if they come across it at the right time in their life. If it fills a niche – however specific that niche may be – then someone must like it, somewhere out there.

On the unlikely event that there is literally no one, you can at least attempt to have fun whilst writing. Then it’s just a hobby you enjoy doing. It’s quite possible that writing a novel only you will ever read (or find worth reading) is as much as a waste of time as video games, but we still play those by the decade every day.

So, I say to you, just bloody write. Keep writing through the shit parts (you can always edit it later; another hobby to take up, perhaps) and push on for an end. A cliched end, an unsatisfying end, or even kind of meandering end that clutches to life for a few pages too long. Write your story and be glad you’ve done it. Then start on your next. That might be better, who knows.

The bad news is that getting to the end is awfully hard and I’m not sure why. I always lose interest. Often, I do have a premise that I quite like. As an example, I took Aladdin recently and tried writing it as if it were set in the future; a cyberpunk scavenger comes across a long-lost artificial intelligence which appears to have been created and then lost before it could find time to boot up. The AI so incredibly sophisticated that even today it can hack into any Internet-connected system, offering the opportunity to collect cash, information, even a cleared criminal record. That’s when the antagonist appears, someone who spots this highly intelligent algorithm poking around some servers and sets out to get their hands on it no matter the cost – and awfully, does. How will our hero get the tech back into the correct hands? Well, you know the plot of Aladdin.

I’m pretty pleased with that premise. A spin on a tale told many times before. I’ve not managed to finish it though. I’ve not managed to get past just the opening few paragraphs. I’m really unsure why.

At times like these, when a writer has an idea and can’t get it onto the page, do they just push on and crank it out? That was my very advice I just put above. Is that always the correct advice to live by though? Instead, should I decide that the story hasn’t gripped me, regardless of how interesting the idea might be, and I should just move onto the next idea?

I wonder if I keep pushing, will I get the ball rolling and start to gain a rhyme.

I suppose there’s only one way to find out.